What is truth?

A priest, a rabbi and an Imam walk into a bar.  The bartender says, “What is this, a joke?”

Some say “all paths lead to God.”  That’s a wonderfully inclusive thought and the open-minded people all nod in agreement.  No one has a monopoly on the truth!  It’s an enlightened attitude until we actually explore the concept of “truth.”

Not to get all metaphysical, but the law of non-contradiction states that contradictIMG_1036ory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time.  So, if one religion claims so-and-so is the last and greatest prophet and he speaks for God, then it is either true or untrue.  If it is not true, then followers of that prophet had better brace themselves for an unpleasant judgement.

Christians believe that Jesus is the embodiment of God.  Jesus is the god we can see and touch, and He reveals all truth about our Heavenly Father and life itself.  That is either a true statement or it is false.  I have staked my own eternity on the answer.

“Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”  And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” – Mark 14:61-62

The writer C.S. Lewis once famously addressed the issue of people who say that Jesus was merely a great teacher, in the category of Plato and Gandhi.  Lewis wrote, “a man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.”

When it comes to truth about God, we all must make a choice.  If Jesus was not God then I’ve wasted a lot of money on Christmas gifts.  If you believe that He (note the upper case “H”) was God incarnate, you have reached a profound conclusion, but you also have raised some other very important questions:  Is the Bible true and infallible?  By what means are we reconciled with God; grace or works, or some combination?  Are heaven and hell real?  A good many church denominations were created based on answers to these questions.

But the first question, the most important question, is this: what is the truth about Jesus… or Muhammad or Buddha or L. Ron Hubbard?  Were all of them phonies?  Were they all inspired by some higher power?  What is the truth?

Among the founders of the great religions, only Jesus claimed to be divine.  His followers of that day were completely convinced, so convinced that most died as martyrs.  His teachings are transcendent: love your neighbor as yourself, return good for evil, forgive everyone, help those in need, etc.  They present a blueprint for a peaceful, joyful world.  Compare that philosophy with the Muslims, who are instructed to kill infidels, and they will issue a fatwah if you so much as use a Koran for a coaster.  How about Hindus and Buddhists, whose belief in karma is such that they are reluctant to help beggars, orphans and widows who (they believe) are suffering for misdeeds in a past life.

At his trial, Jesus explained to the Roman Governor Pilate, “I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth.  All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”

Pilate replied, “What is truth?”

Indeed, that is a great question.  Religious scholars have sought the answer for centuries.  The truth is surprisingly easy to find, hidden before us in plain sight.  Study the Gospels yourself and come to your own conclusion.  The truth is in there… no joke.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

  • Is it bad to think one religion is “right” and all the others are “wrong?” Why or why not?
  • Why do you think your views of God are correct?
  • What happens to really good, moral people of other faiths when they die? If they go to hell, what does that say about the Christian God?


A Beatitudes Attitude, part 2


“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

I was not a rebellious youth, I was a hypocritical, two-faced phony.  A Christian goody goody by day, hell-raiser at night.  My dad was not fooled; I was the youngest of six children.  One morning I was late for work due to hungoveritis.  This was a prickly problem because I worked for my father, a teetotaler.  He met me as I arrived at work, bleary eyed and disheveled.  I expected hell fire.  His wry, nonsensical comment was, “you must have had something that didn’t concern you last night.”  He passed me by and nothing else was said.  It was a lesson in mercy, the type of mercy I have sometimes shown to my kids.  Our Heavenly Father demonstrates mercy to us all the time, an example of how we should treat others.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Purity is defineds-l300 as freedom from contamination.  A believer’s heart is like gold, and it is very valuable to God.  But like gold it can be contaminated by impurities.  Fortunately, God is a refiner of hearts.  He is constantly working to purify my heart and mind.  He wants me to act in a Mark 12 way, “…love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”  If you examine my heart closely you will see it is contaminated by particles of pride, anger, selfishness, lust, greed and a bunch of other ugly attitudes.  Ultimately my heart will be completely purified in heaven.  Until then, God will continue His refining work in me.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

The world is a violent place.  In my city, people are shot almost every night.  Shooting and murder are only the most egregious expressions of anger.  People fight, shout, cry, run away and argue all the time.  It even happens in churches.  I have witnessed numerous ugly arguments, shouting and name-calling… and that was in church leadership meetings!  How can this be when we worship a God of peace? (2 Cor. 13:11 and elsewhere.)  Peacemakers are humble servants of Jesus Christ.  Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  Real peacemakers are servants.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Years ago I met a man in an Asian country who shared his life story with me.  He had been jailed and tortured numerous times because he was a Christ-follower who was not afraid to tell others about Jesus.  He told about how the guards would cut his arms and rub salt and hot spices into the wounds to inflict pain.  As an American I have only experienced mild ridicule for my religious beliefs.  Somewhat skeptical, I asked to see evidence.  He turned his wrists upward for me to examine.  I almost wept.  His commitment to Jesus was evident in his scars.  He is still preaching in his country, telling others about a God who loved us so much He sacrificed His son for our sins.  He also is still living under persecution.  This man’s faith is real and his reward in heaven will be great.  As for now, he is genuinely blessed… his heart and mind are correctly aligned with God and he is in a good state of being.

May we all be so blessed.



A Beatitudes Attitude, part 1

The most famous sermon ever delivered, the “sermon on the mount,” begins with eight statements known as the beatitudes.  Did Jesus not know it is best to begin a sermon with a joke or funny anecdote?

Jesus: “In the story of the Good Samaritan, why did the Pharisee cross the road?  Because he was chicken!  Thanks folks, I’ll be here til Passover.”

The word “beatitude” itself is cryptic.  What the heck is a beatitude?  Basically, it means “blessed,” or perhaps better, “in a good state of being.”  Taken as a blessedwhole, the beatitudes are a list of attitudes that define proper Christian character.  You could say Jesus was telling us, “these should be your attitudes.”  Get it?  Be-your-attitudes.  Beatitudes!

Each beatitude states a Kingdom concept that deserves a full discussion, but few believers take the necessary time to decipher their deeper meanings.  The Aramaic words and phrases Jesus used, like “poor in spirit,” sometimes translate poorly into English.  Even the simple word “blessed” may be misinterpreted by 21st Century ears.  Blessed does not mean “happy.”  Blessed conveys the attitude of someone whose heart and mind are correctly aligned with the Holy Spirit.  That person may indeed be happy, but they are also at peace with their circumstances and in right standing with God.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“Amazing grace!  How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”  John Newton wrote those lyrics in 1779.  It is difficult to find a word in the English language worse than “wretch” without resorting to profanity, which is frowned upon in hymns.  In his formative years, Newton was a defiant son who renounced his faith and became a slave merchant.  He was famously obscene, mean and… lean, having been nearly starved to death by sailors who grew to hate him.  A near death experience led him to faith in Jesus.  Newton recognized his depravity and he became poor in spirit.  His vileness was no worse than any other person, me included, but it moved him to repent.  We are all wretches compared to God, who saves us by His grace (unearned kindness and mercy).

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

We often think of mourning as sadness over the death of a loved one, but we mourn other things as well.  Maybe the loss of a job or the loss of innocence to drug addiction.  We mourn divorce and failed relationships.  All are painful and sometimes the pain lasts a lifetime.

In Revelation 21:4 the writer tells us that in heaven, God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning or crying or pain anymore…”  Followers of Jesus should have an eternal perspective.  If you are a human being, then mourning is inevitable… but it will not last.  Genuine joy comes later, in heaven.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

Meek does not mean weak.  In this con091113-NFL-Tony-Dungy-PI-AA_20130911233140566_660_320text meekness is power under the authority of someone greater.  Tony Dungy played football in the NFL.  As a coach, he won a Super Bowl.  He’s had a successful career as a broadcaster, speaker and author.  He is strong mentally and physically.  He is highly accomplished and seems capable of doing anything.  Yet, he is humble. “I don’t have the strength or wisdom to get through a single day without guidance and grace from God,” said Dungy.  He is meek, not weak.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Righteousness means “acting in accord with divine or moral law; morally right.”  Jesus-followers might define it as being Christ-like.  This beatitude refers to more than just personal righteousness, however.  It also implies a desire to see righteousness in the world.  We should be concerned about justice, fairness and well-being for all.  Jesus is telling us here, very clearly, that we should seek righteousness, both personally and globally, with the same urgency a hungry person seeks food and water.  Are you starving for righteousness?

(see A Beatitudes Attitude, part 2)

U.S. Extra Fancy

How do you identify a Christian?  We don’t have tattoos on our foreheads, though that’s an idea worth considering.  We may have a Jesus t-shirt, but who knows if we actually went to the concert?

Lots of people say they are Christians but when you examine their life closely they don’t seem very Christ-like, which is what Christian means.  Perhaps they are not Christians at all, which means they have not asked for forgiveness of their sins and accepted God’s gift of eternal life.  Or, maybe they are “born again” but are not currently in a healthy relationship with Jesus (i.e., they’re living for themselves).  They are stealthy Christians, undetectable in the world.

So, how can you spot Funny-Apple-Knifean actual Christian?  Jesus addressed this issue in His “sermon on the mount,” which is found in Matthew 7.  He said the way to identify a tree or a person is by the kind of fruit that is produced.  Makes sense.  It is an interesting analogy, because even if a particular tree produces fruit, the fruit of that tree may not be very tasty or attractive, depending on the vitality of the tree.  And trees can be inconsistent, producing an abundant, delicious crop one year and a poor crop the next.

What did Jesus mean exactly when he referred to fruit?  Is it church attendance?  The amount of money you give to charities?  The number of “unsaved” people you lead to Lord.  I know some Christians who humble-brag about the folks they’ve “won” for Jesus.  They would never admit this, but they would love to wear a sash like the Boy Scouts so they could display all the soul-winning merit badges they have accumulated.  They could eventually become Eagle Christians and have a ceremony with cake and punch.

Forgive my sarcasm, Lord.

“Leading someone to Jesus” is awesome, but you shouldn’t take much credit for it – that work is actually done by the Holy Spirit, which is God’s voice in our hearts.  We are merely fruit pickers, workers in the harvest.

Fruit is defined clearly in Galatians 5:22-23.  Paul lists the following character traits of a committed Jesus follower:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – all “fruit of the spirit.”

I sometimes exhibit these characteristics, other times they are nearly invisible in my life.  The quality of my fruit is inconsistent, and that reflects both my humanity and my often-wavering commitment to the Lord.

Years ago, I did some marketing work for the apple industry.  I got to know the business pretty well.  Apple packers examine the quality of each apple that is harvested and assign one of five grades, the highest being U.S. Extra Fancy.

When I look at my own life, my fruit is very inconsistent.  I don’t love others well all the time.  My joy and peace ebb and flow.  Patience?  I get angry because the ice dispenser is too slow.  Goodness, faithfulness and gentleness are often as elusive as leprechauns.  Self-control is eating only five cookies.

If my Christian life was an apple, it would likely be chosen for apple sauce, not good enough to make the grocery store display.  I’m soft, bruised and spiritually small.  But here I am, in God’s orchard.  If I want my fruit to improve, I need to nourish myself daily with God’s Word, pray sincere prayers and worship the Lord with reverence and gladness.

My goal is to be an obvious Christian, a consistent producer of good fruit.  I want others to see my life and say, “that guy is a U.S. Extra Fancy Christian!”

On second thought, that’s sounds really weird.





What’s in a name?

A person’s name is an important thing.  An unusual or inadvertently humorous name can have life-long implications.  Years ago there was a college football player named Happy Feller.  I can imagine his life has been a long series of humorous quips and giggles.  You don’t have to look very hard to find a “Ben Dover” or “Brock Lee.”  So sad.  Dick Butkus (butt-kiss) was fortunate to be a fearsome all-pro linebacker or he would have been subjected to unmerciful teasing.

loserIn the old days, a person’s name often derived from their occupation or location.  Thomas the carpenter eventually became Thomas Carpenter and Alan of Gentry became Alan Gentry.  In the Bible people were often given names that had meanings.  Abraham meant “father of many,” which was appropriate because he is considered the father of the Hebrew nation.  Abraham’s nephew was Buz, which means “contempt.”  If you think that’s bad, in the New Testament we read about Damaris whose name meant “heifer girl.”  Ouch!

Some people are given nicknames owing to their personality or some rare attribute.  Earvin Johnson was Magic with a basketball.  Ironhead Heyward was a battering ram with a football.  Jesus nicknamed Simon “Cephas,” which translated means “rock” in Aramaic.  We call him Peter.  He later became the rock of the early church.

I knew a guy in college who was called “Fat Daddy.”  He was neither fat nor a daddy.  There was another guy who was known as “Skylab” because he was high most of the time.  (Note: you have to be a certain age to remember the space craft called Skylab.)

The name Jesus is translated from the original Yehoshua, which is sometimes shortened to Yeshua.  The translation is very complicated, but it basically means “salvation,” which is a great name for someone who saves people from their sins.

Your name is the first gift given you by your parents and it remains yours forever unless legally changed.  Sometimes a person’s name can take on a specific or greater meaning.  George Orwell’s name is now used to describe an entire dystopian perspective: “Orwellian.”  It’s hard not to think of disease when we remember Lou Gehrig.  We all know what a Casanova is.

The word “Christian” means “like Christ.”  That’s a bold statement to make about anyone, especially yourself.  It bothers me when a company refers to itself as a “Christian business,” or they use the little fish symbol in their advertising.  It’s like they are using Jesus to personally endorse their company.  “I’m the son of God and I buy all my fishing gear at Slim’s!” Unseemly, don’t you think?

I am a Christ follower and I am trying to become Christ-like.  If I lived 500 years ago I would hope to be known as Steve the Christian or maybe just Steve Christian.  But this is the 21st Century and no one refers to me as Steve the Christian, which indicates I have work to do.  By the way, I have no idea what my actual surname means, but my kids have suggested “cantankerous grouch.”

“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” – Isaiah 43:1 (ESV)


When I am alone and singing, I sound great!  Someday I will be discovered by a talent scout or rock group in need of a front man.  Yet, when I sing in the presence of others, there is wincing followed by unkind comments.

I am conflicted.sing-loud

The sad truth… I have no vocal talent.  In fact, my wife and kids openly mock me.  I smile as if my singing is just a joke, intentionally self-deprecating to elicit laughs.  Inside I weep, my inner Rod Stewart crushed by the knowledge that I have no talent.  At all.  Whatsoever.

Well, what do they know.  Their singing sucks, too.

The unintended consequence of my family’s ridicule is that I am very self-conscious during worship time at church.  I have been conditioned to keep quiet, lest I draw the ire of other worshippers.  If people hear my caterwauling, I might get the stink-eye, that ugly expression people make when someone says something inappropriate or they smell flatulence.

So, I’ve learned to keep quiet.  A friend once told me that if you are embarrassed to sing, simply mouth the words “watermelon” over and over.  It looks like you’re singing but you’re not.  I tried this for a brief time but soon realized she probably told me that as a prank to make me look stupid.

We are told in Scripture to worship.  Psalm 98:4, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.”  But my voice is not joyful noise, it’s annoying, like my schnauzer’s howling.  This raises the question; can we worship in non-musical ways?

Sure.  Prayer can be a form of worship, and unlike singing, I pray pretty good.  So, I often pray silently while others are belting out “Great Are You Lord.”  This, of course, makes me look pious to others, and that satisfies my Christian ego, but I question my own motives.

Reading the Bible can be a worshipful experience.  Tithing, too.  These are great things that bring glory to God, but when I examine Scripture closely, I get the feeling that singing to the Lord is a non-negotiable. “Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!” (Psalm 96:1).  Not much gray area there; God wants singers.

Pleasing God is not the only reason to sing.  Singing can be a blessing to others when they see our sincerity, though they may want earplugs.  The sight of dozens or even hundreds of people singing together creates a mood that invites the Holy Spirit, which is necessary for real worship to occur.  Christian songs and hymns often reinforce truths about God that are powerful and motivating.  To sing these truths as praise to God is pleasing to Him and refreshing to our spirit, like health food for the soul.

When pride interferes with my singing, it is important for me to remember that the heart of worship is surrender.  God seeks total submission from His people, and that’s a good thing.  Total submission to God brings peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding.  Total submission is essential in our sanctification, a churchy-word that simply means being more like Jesus, and being like Jesus should be the goal of every believer.

I’ll bring you more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what you have required
You search much deeper within

Those are lyrics from Michael W. Smith’s song, “The Heart of Worship.”  God’s loves to hear his children sing, but the song is not the thing.  He seeks out heart.  That is something worth singing about, even if you get the stink-eye.

“Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!  For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods.  For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens.  Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place.”
  – 1 Chronicles 16:23-27


Saved from what?

Like the frog in the frying pan, lots of people are unaware they need saving.

Christians sometimes ask the question, “are you saved?”  The respondent, who is likely not a church attender, may be confused. Their honest response might be, “saved from what?”

frogExplaining salvation to a person raised in a post-modern, post-religious culture is a little like explaining pizza to a tribal herdsman in the African Sahara.  “Well, you start with dough, then add tomato sauce and lots of cheese, then some little slices of meat called pepperoni…”


Some “lost people” may have enough religious awareness to understand you are talking about hell.  Hell, according to popular culture, is the fictional place where bad people go when they die.  Other folks may think you mean saved from the devil, who is thought to have horns, a pitch fork and a goatee.  Why a goatee?  Because goatees are evil!  Some might mention sin, which non-Christians define as any activity that is fun.

So, in summary, to be “saved” means avoiding a make-believe place in the afterlife ruled by a cartoon character.  In the meantime, quit having any fun and follow Tim Tebow on Twitter.

Clearly there is an information gap.

Rather than jump directly to the salvation question, perhaps it is better to get some basic information first.  Do you believe there is a god?  If so, what is the truth about him?  This will inevitably lead to a discussion of Jesus, and that’s good because there is a lot to like about Jesus.  Getting someone to accept the premise that Jesus is the personification of the real God is essential to understanding the whole salvation thing.

But again, the question is, saved from what?  Matthew 1:21 states that Jesus “will save His people from their sins.”  More specifically, the consequences of their sins.

Ah, that’s the hard truth that atheists, agnostics, teenagers and even some Christians don’t want to admit – actions have consequences.  From God’s eternal, spiritual perspective, the consequence of sin is death, and not just physical death but “eternal death;” that is, eternal separation from God.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

Everyone sins, therefore we all are separated from God.  Christians view this as a spiritual “law” in the same way physicists view natural laws, like the First Law of Thermodynamics (which makes a scientific case for a creator, by the way).  Fortunately, God is loving and forgiving.  He doesn’t want anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  That’s why Jesus came to live among people, to reveal God’s nature to us and take the punishment for our sins.  Once you have genuinely committed to follow Jesus, all your sins – past and future – are expunged (erased, gone).  You are completely and forever saved.

I rarely use the word “saved” when discussing my spiritual status.  I prefer to say that I am a Jesus Follower, because that’s what I’m trying to do – follow the example of Jesus.  Yes, I have been saved from the consequences of my sins.  I am a frog who realized the inevitable consequences of the frying pan.

“For God so loved the world, ithat he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” – John 3:16-18 (ESV)




Life of Dee

We live in the suburbs.  Four bedrooms and a two-car garage.  We’ve lived in the same house for 27 years.  The grass is green and the AC works just fine.

news3-1_pg18My 19-year-old friend Dee guesses that he has lived in 30 different locations in his lifetime.  In the five years I’ve known him, he has stayed in at least 10 different places, all in the worst parts of the city.  Sometimes his family – as many as 11 kids and his mom – has lived in abandoned houses or in tiny, roach-infested apartments.  Electricity and food were not always available; violence and crime were plentiful.

Dee said about 17 of his friends and acquaintances have been killed during just his teenage years.  I have no reason to doubt him, having seen these neighborhoods up close.  Most were killed by guns, though at least one was struck by a car.  He said his uncle was shot while holding a baby.

I met Dee through a mutual friend.  The friend found Dee on a basketball court in Orange Mound, one of Memphis’s poorest neighborhoods.  He offered Dee a bottle of water and conversation.  While many of the African-American ballers were skeptical of the strange white dude, the ever-affable Dee was happy to meet someone new.

The friend started bringing Dee to our suburban mega-church.  Dee was different than most of the students, rougher around the edges and more poorly dressed.  He told me that as a young kid he often wore the same clothing for two or three weeks at a time without washing.  This embarrassed him and he felt gross, but what’s a kid going to do when your mom doesn’t have a washing machine or money for the laundry mat?  Momma has congestive heart failure and asthma, conditions that have put her in the hospital on numerous occasions.  When she is in the hospital, the kids have to fend for themselves.

Dee, have you ever been hungry?  “Lots of times.”  He said he has slept in cars and on cold floors because there was no bed, blankets or heat.  “But I was okay because I had a hoodie.”  Mom kicked him out on a few occasions after arguments.  Sometimes he would call me.  I picked him up one night outside a cheap motel where the local assistance agency had put them up for the night.  He was about 16 at the time, shivering in gym shorts and a tank top because it was 40 degrees.

Dee rarely got into trouble like some of his friends and siblings did.  He credits the advice of older people in the neighborhood who explained the consequences of drugs and crime.  Dee’s younger half-brother didn’t listen.  Now 16, the kid brother already has a long criminal record that includes car theft, gun possession, attempted murder and kidnapping.  Another younger brother has a rape charge among other crimes.

At church Dee met people who, for some reason, were interested in him.  Sometimes they took him home for a meal.  They bought him birthday and Christmas gifts.  They took him on youth retreats.  “I got to know who God was,” Dee said.  “I had some deep conversations with some of the counselors.  I realized I was lost.  I also realized I could have a better life.”

It was on a youth trip that Dee heard God whisper to him, “You’re ready for this.”  With some counseling, Dee became a follower of Jesus and was baptized.  Now he says, “I want to do something different with my life, I want to change my family’s future.”

Dee says his home life is better these days, though far from ideal.  Some of his siblings are grown and two are currently incarcerated.  Only the younger kids remain, and Dee helps out by watching them when Mom is at work or sick.  Dee works at a community gym.  He has a girlfriend and is considering moving to another city for a fresh start.

“My life is definitely better than it used to be.  I have some cool friends that love me.  My mom and I get along better.  I finished high school and then my sister went back and got her GED, so maybe I was a good influence on her.  I’m trying to help the younger kids and keep them out of trouble.”

Dee tells me his story with little emotion or self-pity.  He knows his life is normal for an inner-city kid; there are thousands more like him on the streets of Memphis.  Many may never know that there is a God who loves them and has a better life waiting for them.  They’ll never know unless someone tells them.

The question is, what am I doing to help the other “Dee’s” who are out there?

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” – 1 John 3:17



Rx for Anxiety

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in the United States, affecting some 40 million adults.  Furthermore, Americans spend about $40 billion annually on depression drugs. God has something to help you with fear and anxiety and it’s not in a pill bottle.  It’s the Book of Matthew.  Take one passage as needed for relief of disquietude.  Note: works more effectively with faith.

Matthew 6:25-34 – Birds and flowers.  Your income is low and your bills are high.  It is hard NOT to worry when your bank Fat thinkerbalance is tiny.  Does God punish you for your lack of faith?  Nope.  He knows your weaknesses and limitations and loves you anyway.  Jesus himself said, “(God) will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.”

Matthew 8:5-13 – Just say the word.  Real faith knows that Jesus will deliver more reliably than FedEx.  A Roman officer was so confident in Jesus that he told the Messiah, “just say the word and my son will be healed.” The same Jesus that healed this man’s son is waiting to hear from you right now.

Matthew 8:23-27 – HELP!  It’s a big storm and your small boat is about to capsize.  Everyone will drown.  HELP! You need somebody.  HELP! Not just anybody.  HEEEELP!!!  Preach it, Beatles!  You yell for Jesus and the storm dissipates.  Relief doesn’t always come immediately, but it will come.  Meanwhile, Jesus asks, “Why are you afraid?”

Matthew 9:1-8 – Mat-Man.  Determination and faith are like caramel and sea salt; they go great together.  These dudes in Matthew 9 REALLY believed Jesus could heal their friend and the Lord rewarded their faith.  Don’t let Satan discourage you.  Overcome the obstacles, block out the distractions.  Get to Jesus.

Matthew 9:19-22 – Just a touch.  God is way more powerful and capable than we often understand.  A woman who had been ill for 12 years knew that just touching Jesus’s garment would heal her.  The combination of humility and faith will bring results.

Matthew 14:22-33 – Get out of the boat.  Faith is so much easier when life is smooth and easy.  When turbulence comes along you begin to get nervous.  You see Jesus and step out in faith, but things get even worse.  Yikes!  Fortunately, Jesus takes your hand and saves you, sometimes miraculously.  It’s scary, but you need to experience storms so you can learn to rely on God.

Matthew 21:21-22 – Moving mountains.  “Faith can move mountains!”  That’s a Bible cliché, but if you believe in God and His Word, He will move ‘em.  An example:  Milton Hatcher was an alcoholic who became a follower of Jesus.  In 1967, he looked around his hometown of Memphis and saw hundreds of alcoholics and drug addicts who were homeless and hopeless. He decided to start a shelter, even though he had no money, training or resources.  All he had was faith.  Fast-forward 50 years: Calvary Rescue Mission has provided overnight lodging and hot meals for more than a half-million men.  Thousands have become Jesus followers!  BTW, Milton died in 1995, but there are dozens of people carrying on the ministry.  God moved many mountains for Milton and Calvary Rescue Mission.  He also has moved mountains in the lives of thousands of homeless, addicted men.  He can move one for you.

But the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.  And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.  But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ and they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’  And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’  He said, ‘Come.’  So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’   Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”’” – Matthew 14:24-31


Revelation and Jerry Lee Lewis

The Book of Revelation is deep, deep like a Yeats poem or that movie The Matrix.  It contains prophecy wrapped in symbolism explained by the Apostle John who was doing his best to describe things he did not fully understand.  John, the last living disciple, had been exiled to a small island in the Mediterranean Sea by the Romans who were sick of him talking about Jesus all the time.  John had seen Jesus resurrected from the dead.

Jerry Lee Lewis, Rock & Roll Singer(Date Unknown/Possible 50s)
Jerry Lee Lewis, Rock & Roll Singer

I met Jerry Lee Lewis once and I still talk about it.  He showed up at a nightclub on the night of my bachelor party.  (Note: I wasn’t following Jesus very much in those days.)  He was long past his hell-raising prime but looking to resurrect his career.  He’s still alive, his career is still dead.

In chapter 4 John is given a vision of heaven.  His described a church service like nothing we’ve ever seen, with creatures that looked like eagles and oxen and elders.  Not your typical Presbyterian meeting.  They all worshipped God, saying “holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.”  Bible experts say that the creatures John saw represented the attributes of God.  I don’t know much about that, but I do know that worshipping God is very important.  In fact, it is why people exist… to give God glory.

In chapters 5-9 John writes about a scroll with seven seals.  The scroll contains a glimpse of the future.  In chapter six he mentions the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which some say represent pestilence, war, famine and death (my opinion: Kim, Khloé, Kourtney and Kanye).

When the fifth seal is opened, John gets a glimpse of all the martyrs who have suffered and died for the cause of Jesus.  He likely saw people who are suffering and dying for Jesus right now in places all around the world.  Keep in mind that God is not bound by time.  Boggles the mind, right?  Open Doors, a persecution watchdog group, said that 7,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2015.  Christian persecution is real, horrific and occurs every day around the world.  American believers live in a fantasy bubble.

The sixth and seventh seals contain images from the end times; the final battle between God and Satan, natural disasters, war, Armageddon, and a celebration in heaven for God’s great victory.

The final three chapters (11-13) of Revelation speak of Satan’s imprisonment (in hell, we presume), a final judgement and the creation of a new heaven and a “New Earth.”  This New Earth will be life as God originally planned it, before Adam and Eve goofed up everything.

The purpose of Revelation is not predicting the future; it is to emphasize the preeminence of Jesus.  “Preeminence” is one of those churchy words that simply means Jesus is the most important person ever.  More important than Plato, Gandhi, Einstein or Tom Brady.

In one of John’s other books, the Gospel of John, he refers to Jesus as “The Word.”  He writes, “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He (Jesus) was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him (Jesus), and without him (Jesus) was not anything made that was made.  In him (Jesus) was life, and the life was the light of men.   The light (Jesus) shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

According to Revelation, Jesus is a big deal, in fact, the BIGGEST DEAL.  Certainly more important than Jerry Lee.  He (Jesus, not Jerry Lee) is the focal point of creation and all of history.  God revealed that fact to John in a vision.  The Book of Revelation is John’s version of the vision.

Goodness gracious!

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.’” – Revelation 1:17-18